Have your cocktail and drink it too.
Cheers! Health-conscious drinking is not an oxymoron. Research has linked red wine in particular to heart health benefits, and new research shows that people in a high-intensity interval training program who drank a beer or two with meals benefited just as much as exercisers who didn’t. And while experts don’t exactly recommend taking up booze for the potential health boost, if you’re already going to drink, there are healthy and unhealthy ways to do it. For one, know the recommended limits (two drinks a day for men, one drink a day for women) and eat before you imbibe, says Sonya Angelone, a registered dietitian nutritionist near San Francisco. Then, pick your ingredients wisely.
Stay away from the sugar bombs that are concentrated juices like grape and apple, and look for a 100% juice like orange, pineapple or even guava to mix with a sparkling wine, gin or vodka, suggests Joy Dubost, a registered dietitian nutritionist in the New York City area. Pomegranate juice is a good choice too: Research suggests it may help reduce the spread of cancer cells, promote the death of cancer cells and reduce inflammation — three key parts of fighting any type of cancer in our bodies. The fruit has also been shown to help lower blood pressure.
Keep it simple and use something bubbly and calorie-free to make your cocktail last longer, cut its alcohol content and up the festive factor. “If you want to add a twist, you could add your own fruit or herbs or even freeze it and make it blendable,” Dubost says. That extra volume can save you from extra booze — and calories — you didn’t know you were getting, since it’s easy to pour (or be served) amounts that far exceed the recommended limits. “Some cocktails have multiple shots or freely pour more alcohol than just one drink equivalent,” Dubost says. “You have to be mindful.”
Put down the Red Bull vodka and pick up a black or green tea cocktail instead. The compounds in green tea may help prevent memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease, support brain and eye health and deliver an all-natural energy boost to boot. “There is strong evidence with regard to tea consumption” when it comes to heart health as well, says Dubost, who recommends using a vermouth, gin or vodka base for a tea cocktail, or even crafting a twist on a Moscow mule. Kombucha is also a type of tea that pairs well with alcohol, given its fizzy nature, adds Angelone, who’s a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Looking for a tropical alternative to sugar-laden tonic water or boring sparkling water? Try 100% coconut water, which is packed with nutritional benefits, including calcium “and a ton of potassium,” Angelone says. It’s also chock-full of electrolytes, which are depleted when drinking, and so can help prevent dehydration and the associated hangover. Just be sure you choose a brand without added sugars or flavors. “Sugar is one of the biggest problems because it makes your drink tasty and you can drink more of it,” Angelone says. “You’ve got to watch out.”
Who says mixers have to be liquid? Try making your own “frozé” — frozen rosé — by freezing rosé in ice cube trays, then blending a few of the cubes with strawberries or watermelon, Dubost recommends. Cantaloupe blends well, too, she adds, and is packed with vitamin C. Top the cocktail off with a mint or basil leaf, or other herb. “Just like with food, the visual appeal is really important,” Angelone says. “If it looks fun and pretty, you’re going to look forward to it and think it’s going to be good.” In theory, you’ll be more satisfied — and able to call it quits.
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